OLYMPIA — More than a third of Washington’s state lawmakers are now requesting their pay be cut for the next two years, a move as much about symbolism as it is about money.
Fifty-six legislators, including a half dozen who represent Snohomish and Island counties, had filed for the salary red
uction as of Monday afternoon.
They are Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative, with most asking for a 3 percent cut in their annual salary of $42,106, which adds up to $105.26 a month.
Most are shaving their earnings in solidarity with state employees whose wages they trimmed by 3 percent earlier this year to help plug a $5 billion gap in the budget.
“I don’t necessarily believe that everybody should take a pay cut,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “But at the same time I felt it was the right thing to do because we are asking our staff as well as state employees to take a pay cut. This was one more opportunity to show that we all need to share in the responsibility to minimize spending in the state budget.”
Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I felt it was simply the right thing to do. If you expect it of your employees, it’s incumbent on the employer to do it,” said Sells, who works as secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council when the Legislature is not in session.
In addition to Bailey and Sells, the other area lawmakers taking pay cuts are Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, and Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe.
But 15 of the area’s 21 lawmakers are not doing so for a variety of reasons.
Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, said he’s given up more than 3 percent because, unlike most lawmakers, he did not join the state’s pension system when he first got elected.
“Because the state is not contributing to a pension on my behalf, I’m costing the taxpayers less,” he said. “When I’m gone, the public doesn’t have to pay for me any more.”
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, did the same thing following her first election in 1992.
“I didn’t sign up for the pension plan because I didn’t think I would stay. After 18 years, I’ve saved them a lot more money than if I took a pay cut,” she said.
Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, a freshman lawmaker, said he saves the state more than $105 a month by paying job-related costs such as gas and meals incurred each week.
“I’m putting in 40-hour weeks. They’re getting their money’s worth from the effort I am putting in to do my job and serve them,” Moscoso said. “I don’t think I have anything to apologize for.”
Legislators talked at length about slashing their own pay in this year’s regular session but found out they couldn’t simply pass a law to do it. Voters in the 1980s amended the Constitution to put a citizen commission in charge of setting their salaries and it required another amendment to change the rules. Lawmakers balked at trying.
Instead, in the same law which reduced pay of most state workers through June 2013, language was added to let lawmakers voluntarily give up as much monthly compensation as they wished.
Many legislators didn’t realize they had actually done that until late July when they received instructions from the administration of the House and Senate and questions from reporters.
As of Monday afternoon, 40 representatives and 16 senators had filed for less pay including leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses in both chambers. Those four in leadership will lose a bit more money because their salaries are higher than rank and file lawmakers.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown both earn $50,106, while minority leaders Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, earn $46,106.
Regardless of their decisions, most lawmakers said they are not getting pressed by constituents on this subject.
“No one in my district has raised this question with me. Not a single person,” Moscoso said. “Would it influence me if they did? Certainly I would listen.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com
Who’s taking a cut, and who isn’t
These lawmakers are taking a salary reduction:
Senate: Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens
House: Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett; Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park; Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe.
These lawmakers are not as of Monday
Senate: Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell; Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island; Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds; Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds; Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett; Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington.
House: Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace; Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell; Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds; Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood; Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline; Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish; Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish; Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens